National News

North vs. South, That Fading Rivalry

Posted December 14, 2017 4:18 p.m. EST

California was once defined by the differences between Northern California and Southern California. But as the state grows and becomes more prosperous, has that begun to change? That question was put to Conor Dougherty, a Times reporter in San Francisco who grew up in the Bay Area, and Adam Nagourney, who moved to Los Angeles seven years ago to run our bureau there.

Conor: Adam, I think that the classic NorCal/SoCal rivalry is fading. More than a decade ago when I was living in Los Angeles I went and saw a fabulous art exhibit about a fictional war about San Francisco and L.A. I just can’t imagine that today.

Adam: Hey Conor. As a transplant, I defer to you, of course. Well somewhat. The rivalry might be fading. Still, I have to say the Bay Area seems strikingly different to me from Los Angeles, in terms of attitudes, sensibilities, and, to a lesser extent politics. (Different shades of blue).

Conor: It used to be San Francisco was the union town while Southern California gave us Ronald Reagan. Today, the entire state is run by Democrats. When I was a kid, L.A. was the big bad city that stole our water. One thing that’s softened the rivalry, I think, is the growth of the tech industry. How can you resent Hollywood when your companies are trying to eat it?

Adam: The difference I notice, and maybe this is because of the history of San Francisco — the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, and the cultural turmoil in the Haight and the Castro — is that politics there have always been more intense and a bit more left. Political interest in Los Angeles has always been more intense than New Yorkers (just kidding, Mom!) might think, though I don’t think it’s quite as intense as San Francisco. (Or wasn’t that is, until last year’s presidential election).

Conor: Fair enough. In the ‘90s people said the NorCal/SoCal rivalry was mostly a one-sided affair in which people in San Francisco were jealous of L.A.'s status as a global capital and people in L.A. thought San Franciscans were cute. But now, with the growth of the tech industry, S.F. is taking on Hollywood and the Bay Area has become a Los Angeles-like slurb with 405-grade traffic. My overall argument comes down to this: In various ways, San Francisco and L.A. are a lot more alike now, and that makes L.A. hard to hate.